Morgan Murphy, a food critic and author.
One piece of advice from Exeter’s dean stands out – Morgan, if you haven’t failed at anything, you haven’t taken enough risk.
On my way to Exeter for the first time, I landed at Heathrow and ventured towards customs. The lane for ‘UK Passports’ wasn’t for me, neither was ‘EU’ or ‘Commonwealth’. This left ‘Other’. Seriously? Your cousins across the pond, bearers of the eternal flame, brothers-in-arms through two world wars couldn’t get a “Special Relationship” lane? I queued up with all the other others and waited my turn to see the customs agent.
“Says here you’re a student?”
“Hmm. Thirty-five. Aren’t you a little old to be going to college? What university?”
“Oxford. Exeter College.”
The agent raised his eyebrows and looked at me more closely. “What are you studying?”
“Business,” I replied.
“Now why are you flying 4,000 miles from home to study business?” He had a fair point. In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge remarked that ‘the chief business of the American people is business’. So why fly all the way to Old Blighty to take accounting and finance?
One word: Exeter. As an English literature major, I worried that getting my MBA might be a toxic blend of boring and tedious. Applying to various schools, I hit upon Oxford with the reasoning that if I was stupefied by the curricula, I could at least roam ancient libraries, study pretty old stained glass windows, and drink pints in the rarefied literary air of the Eagle & Child.
Then two things happened. First, Said Business School fascinated beyond my wildest hopes. And Exeter put the butter on the biscuit—lifelong friends, mentors supportive of my studies, and an atmosphere that seemed carved from a medieval novel. Between more than a few toasts in the dining hall and local pubs, I learned countless business and personal lessons. Yet eleven years on, one piece of advice from the dean stands out: “Morgan, if you haven’t failed at anything, you haven’t taken enough risk.”
I was a middle manager at a large multinational publishing house before coming to Exeter. But since my life-changing years at Oxford, I’ve raised seven figures of venture capital to found a social media company (on the eve of the Great Recession, #fail), written six books (one hit #1 on Amazon, #win), been sent to Afghanistan (Navy officer in a landlocked country, #fail; but came home alive, so #win), restored the former King of England’s 1941 Cadillac (win), driven a vintage car to all lower 48 U.S. states (win), and just launched a line of hickory smoked, salt cured, dry aged, thick cut bacon. Any day with bacon is a win in my book. So if by ‘crunches’ you mean the sound bacon makes when I eat it, then yes, I do ‘crunches’.
When one’s soul is cared for by a college founded in 1314, it gives a certain perspective on life: namely, it’s short. How many hands have touched this stone bannister? How many heartbeats have skipped through this walled garden? How many lives have been changed by this venerable college?
Of course I can’t be certain but I know my own life course was greatly altered by my time at Exeter. (And I’m still angling for that “Special Relationship” lane.)